BusinessDay

Unions accuse Aero, leasing firm of ‘conniving’ to run down the airline

…Airline says allegations unfounded

The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) have accused the current management of Aero Contractor under the receivership of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, (AMCON) of working together to run down the airline.

In a statement jointly signed by both NUATE and ATSSSAN, the unions said the airline’s management engineered the phony lease contract with a leasing company, House of 5A’s by which Aero was given only three seats in a 180-seater Airbus at a fixed price of N35,000 per seat.

It explained that whereas the contract was for the purpose of expanding the airline’s network, the leased aircraft somehow supplanted all Aero aircraft on its juicy routes, pushing Aero aircraft to fringe routes with limited passenger intakes.

The statement disclosed that for the period that the lease lasted, the entire Aero Contractors was essentially working for House of 5A’s, as the lessor was making more money than the Airline itself.

The unions said this was the reason the airline ran itself into a deep financial crisis and began to owe salaries unprecedentedly but for the intervention of the unions which threatened to direct workers to withdraw services to the leased aircraft, Aero would still have been under the bondage of the House of 5A’s contract.

The unions wondered who arranged such a murky lease, asking if it was a deliberate ploy to bring the airline down.

“The question begging for answers is who are those so eager to see Aero gone? And why? On this score, we note, and question the rationale of seconding Charles Johnson-Arumeme from Arik Air to Aero as Commercial Manager.

“Johnson-Arumeme drew up the schedule that granted Aero’s juicy routes to House of 5A’s. The same Johnson-Arumeme has overseen the bastardization of the Aero online sales portal as to deliberately render it thoroughly defective.

“We observe that the sales portal would show seats not available when only about 30 passengers would have booked by then. This is in addition to an exceedingly poor schedule with bad timings just to discourage prospective passengers,” the unions alleged.

They stressed that all these acts are clear cases of self-sabotage.

The unions also disclosed that in recent times, they have witnessed sinister attempts to provoke a reaction from the workforce or the Unions to withdraw services which would provide the basis for the company to be shut down.

“Salaries are being owed for upwards of two months. Conditions of Service have remained unilaterally suspended. Even last week, after the CEO fouled the industrial atmosphere with his shutting down press goof, he convened a staff town hall meeting with the plan to provoke unrest, knowing that workers have become restive.

“But, seeing through the plan, workers boycotted the meeting. Fortunately so far, in all these, the Unions and workers have refused the bait. We are aware that this has left the evil planners frustrated,” the unions allege.

In a swift response, Aero management has said all the allegations about the managing director on High 5A’s and Charles Arumemi Johnson are unfounded.

According to a statement by Aero, Johnson is a very competent staff of Arik Air owned by AMCON, which equally owns Aero Contractors; therefore there is no conflict of interest.

“He is instrument to the recently launched Aero portal which has given the site a face lift and made more user friendly compared to the previous website,” Aero added

On the High 5A’s, AMCON stated that every partnership was done with the aim of improving the revenues of the airline, particularly in relation to our unserviceable equipment and ensuring standard customer service.

“The question is what our revenue was before, during and after the exit of High 5As? They should please respond.”

Read also: Aero Contractors deny plans to close operations

The corporation stressed that they are conscious of the challenges facing the industry and have been prudent with expenses, and doing its best to take care of staff welfare.

“The current management decided to create the four Strategic Business Units (SBUs): Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO), Aviation Training Organisation (ATO), Airline Operation and Rotary Wing, to enhance efficiency and profitability.

“There’s no Nigerian carrier without debt overhang caused by the operating environment. And all major airlines in the world have had similar challenges, but took strategic measures to turn around the airlines. It is unfortunate that the airline industry operates on thin margins and airlines are always making efforts to be leaner and smarter to stay afloat.

“Whatever management decisions are taken are usually done with the engagement of the unions. It is at the instance of the unions the Chief Executive Officer called for a Town Hall meeting last week. We believe that as the revenues begin to improve over the next few months, following strategic engagements with potential partners, the airline’s fortune will improve,” Aero stated.